PHILIPSBURG, St. Maarten, July 14, 2015 (AMG) — The Prime Minister of Dutch St. Maarten, Marcel Gumbs, has made what might be the first direct statement on reparations by a leader of government in St-Martin/St Maarten – an island split in ownership between the Kingdom of the Netherlands and France.
Speaking at a recent Emancipation Day lecture, Prime Minister Gumbs noted that the movement for reparatory justice was gaining momentum with greater focus than ever before in the Caribbean region. “The Government and People of St. Maarten would be out of step with the history and progress of this dynamic region, if we do not pay close attention to the historical, socio-economic, political, and legal discussions and proposals about reparations – as it relates to the sovereign countries and the territories in the Caribbean, and the European countries concerned, including the Netherlands,” said Prime Minister Gumbs.
The Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, delivered the Emancipation Day lecture, organized by the Independence for St. Martin Foundation. Gumbs commented that the lecture was about “enhancing the awareness in St. Maarten about the various positions on reparations,” calling Prime Minister Gonsalves a learned, courageous, and steadfast frontline advocate of reparations in the Caribbean region.
The Emancipation Day lecture has become part of the island’s “emancipation season”, as author Lasana M. Sekou and cultural activist Shujah Reiph call the period from May 27 to July 1. The official Emancipation observation in Marigot and Philipsburg is linked respectively to the French and Dutch proclamations of May 1848 and July 1863, though the enslaved people on both parts of the island realized their freedom from slavery in 1848.
Image Credit- Dr. Rhoda Arrindell